What do Guacamole Mexican Grill and Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System have in common?
Both have had trouble filling jobs during a hot job market.
The Mexican restaurant was recently forced to close for a month due to a shortage of cooks and servers.
While the hospital system cannot close for a month, there has been an ongoing shortage of nurses that officials are constantly looking to address.
“Healthcare systems across the United States are experiencing a workforce shortage. Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System is no different,” said Chantel Greenfield, director of talent management for SRHS.
With an unemployment rate of only 3.1 percent -- the lowest since the recession a decade ago -- Spartanburg area employers ranging from mom-and-pop operations to companies with 10,000 employees like BMW Manufacturing are having to get creative to hire and retain talent.
Some are offering higher wages, relocation costs, bonuses and better benefits packages.
“Spartanburg County is virtually at full employment,” said Allen Smith, president and CEO of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce. “We have more jobs than people.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that out of 165,600 people considered eligible to work in the Spartanburg area, 160,400 have jobs. That means only 5,200 are without a job.
It also means workers can be more picky about where they want to work, according to Johnnie-Lynn Crosby, regional director of business solutions for SC Works of Upstate/Greenville. Her agency matches workers with jobs in Cherokee, Greenville, Spartanburg and Union counties.
She said manufacturing companies in particular are having a tough time filling production and warehouse positions that draw from the same talent pool.
“Companies are considering multiple retention strategies such as offering alternative shift models, bolstering tuition reimbursement programs and making noticeable changes to the workplace environment,” she said.
She said SC Works offers job posting services to employers at no cost, enabling them to connect with thousands of qualified candidates seeking employment.
Also, SC Works offers on-site recruitment events and job fairs, she added.
Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, after its recent acquisition of Mary Black Health System, now has nearly 9,000 employees.
Greenfield said the hospital system is working hard to fill positions such as critical care, medical-surgical and telemetry nurses, as well as paramedic and emergency medical technicians.
Among the tools used are payment of relocation costs and bonuses.
“We continuously review compensation and benefit packages,” Greenfield said. “On-site childcare and continuing education are two of the many reasons people love working for Spartanburg Regional.
“Our talent acquisition team frequently plans onsite events, college visits and career fairs, and uses various social media tools and job boards to attract top talent.”
Further, an employee referral bonus program offers employees rewards for referring someone for a position if that person is hired and stays.
Bridging the gap
Meanwhile, local colleges are keenly aware of the hot job market and worker shortage. They've been offering new courses to match the needs of employers like BMW and Spartanburg Regional.
“With a growing economy, we were an under-utilized resource,” said USC Upstate Chancellor Brendan Kelly.
He said he meets with large employers to discuss their employment and training needs.
“For us, we can’t meet expectations unless we have priorities to meet those needs,” he said.
For example, USC Upstate now offers a master’s degree program in business analytics at the George Dean Johnson Jr. College of Business and Economics.
The courses help students use large data sets to solve actual business problems with real-world projects -- a skill many large companies are seeking.
Kelly said USC Upstate also partners with BMW Manufacturing for student internships. For BMW, it’s another pipeline of talent to draw from.
‘Everybody’s getting creative’
At Spartanburg Community College, connecting students to the right jobs and careers is what it’s all about, said Henry Giles, SCC president.
“The job market is real tight,” Giles said. “Everybody’s getting creative. Right now, people can be picky for jobs if they want to. If they’re working where they don’t like their job, they can leave it.
“I always tell students, one of the keys is finding what you like to do, then find a way to earn a living.”
He said companies are offering higher pay, better benefits and flexible work schedules to attract and retain workers.
“We are trying to do everything we can afford to try -- programs with credit, programs without credit,” Giles said. “Companies are desperate to find both production employees and skilled maintenance technicians.”
One example is the college’s mechatronics program that trains technicians for roles in advanced manufacturing companies.
Bottom line, Giles said, is while others work on recruiting more companies to Spartanburg County, local colleges are doing their part to fulfill their needs.
He said the state offers lottery-funded tuition assistance that lowers the cost of tuition and books.
“College is in your reach,” he said.